Quarterly rhythms. Less is more

Quarterly rhythms. Less is more

What does your company strategy look like? Is it rigidly waterfall or are you able to take a more agile approach?

That’s assuming of course that you currently have a strategy for your business – I see plenty of companies who wrote a plan in the early days and haven’t really done much to develop it in the intervening years. I’m also seeing companies who, in the face of Covid, had to improvise and change things up on the hoof, and are still winging it to a certain extent.

It’s a vital piece of the jigsaw though: having the correct strategy in place is the backbone of growing your business.

You also have to look at the question from another angle. As well asking what your strategy is, we should also ask ‘How are you measuring success?’. Over the last 18 months I know success for many has been keeping their company afloat, but as we enter a period of economic regrowth, just treading water isn’t nearly enough. You must have some direction.

Are you planning to go back to your pre-Covid methodology? You could do– if it wasn’t broke then you might think it doesn’t need fixing now, but if there’s one positive thing the pandemic has given us, it’s an opportunity to start afresh. What’s working and what needs to change? How does the industry landscape in front of you look now as opposed to 18 months ago?

Another question: does your team have enough clarity and consistency to be able to perform at their best? Have you given them proper targets and goals so that you, and by extension they, know that they’re doing well? Who’s holding them accountable?

Who’s holding you accountable?

That’s a lot to think about, I know. But it doesn’t have to be as overwhelming as it might seem.

Something that’s helped me over my career is to break the year down into quarters. It immediately makes planning less intimidating. You can also focus on your ‘not-to-do’ list! Building a great plan is often about what you remove, not what you add. If you try to achieve too much, you’ll likely fall short on everything. Be bold, remove goals that are no longer serving the business and get absolute clarity on what you’ll focus on and go for it.

What I also did was to introduce some rhythms and rituals, that became habit – think of it as building muscle memory for processes within the company. This could be quarterly reviews, board meetings… anything that means you’re ensuring not only progress but also that you can see how effectively it’s happening.

Look at your metrics: if you’re going to measure growth and success, you need to know what your yardstick is! Let your team know as well – make sure they know what’s expected of them and that they’re supported in any new initiatives you’re introducing.

Then you can move onto your actual strategy: plan, do, and see what happens. You can then look at the results and take any necessary action to tweak what you’re doing (or not).

You’re aiming to build repeatable processes and bed in good habits – it might take 6, 12 or even 18 months for this to really take hold, but you’ll more than likely start seeing a difference in your working behaviours long before then. The beauty of breaking it down into quarters is that you’re blending agile and waterfall: you’ve got a plan, you can commit to big organisational changes while still able to course correct if things go slightly awry. Your team knows what’s expected of them right now whilst also having a clear view of the big picture.

These rhythms will give you clarity, minimise operational uncertainty and release your team to do their best work. If that sounds good to you, get in touch – we can’t wait to hear from you – go.jamespotten.com

Why it’s important to create a predictable hiring process

Why it’s important to create a predictable hiring process

So yesterday, I saw someone in the street who was the first person I ever had to remove from their role in a business. It got me thinking and reminded me just how hard that actually was. I think it’s one of the hardest things you’ll do in a business leadership role, having to go through that process of letting someone know that they are no longer going to be in that position.

This encounter served to remind me just how important it became personally to try and create a repeatable process for hiring people in the businesses I was involved with. Your people are your business and, when you are building for high performance, getting the hiring of your team right is key.

They say a bad hire can cost business dearly. In fact, The Society for Human Resources Management has produced a statistic indicating that a bad hire typically costs a business 5 times the starting salary for that role.

So, getting recruitment right is so important. That’s why I always advocate getting the right hiring system in place as a business fundamental. Get it right and you can really get to understand someone from different aspects and different situations and ensure you end up with a business with the right people in it.

Ultimately, an effective hiring process ensures we get the right people on the bus and the right people in the right seats on the bus. We don’t end up with the wrong people, and importantly, we also don’t end up hiring great people into the wrong roles!

So, how can you create a repeatable hiring model that works?

Start by looking at how your business structure needs to look and what the current and future skills gaps are. If you haven’t already done so, I would advocate ensuring your existing team members have very specific roles and targets already defined and documented. Not only does this help in identifying gaps you’ll need to recruit for, it also helps create a transparent shared vision and culture internally where everything gels.

The foundations…

Be agile building the ideal team structure you want, work out who you have that can fill that seat well with training, then work out what you need to externally recruit. Developing an existing employee to meet a future role need in a business is great if they have the capability but if the skills just don’t exist internally you’ll need to outsource until those competencies exist internally.

If an external hire is required to meet business needs, consider too that the best people are often already in roles and may cost you more, and so using boolean searches on LinkedIn can be a very powerful way to build the team you need.

Avoid shortcuts…

The cohesive culture we are looking to develop internally needs to be reflected in our hiring process and we can achieve this with an extensive, repeatable and fair selection process. In fact, it’s true to say that short cutting any hire will only create internal resentment. Also, your team will usually look to the latest hire to understand what the new good looks like (so hiring well really matters).

Getting the external hiring process right…

It’s important to take the time to consider how you will attract great talent. Review your recruitment advertising. Do you project your passion, values and what applicant needs to know to buy into you? Do you project the passion you have from your business culture versus brand? These elements are often intertwined but ensure you help people understand exactly who you are and why you are here!

I have already alluded to the importance of culture and values…they really matter. Ensure your recruitment process takes this into account. You also need to think about whether you are looking for someone to follow your existing system or to come in and create or change things up. It’s also important to consider how you could implement ‘blind CVs’ to ensure any bias is removed during the sifting process (and throughout). 

The interviews…

Within your hiring process, you’ll establish your procedures for an effective first sift and for the initial interview. It’s fair to say there’s different schools of thought on who should lead your interview process. Should it be your top leader, the person the candidate would work directly for etc?

‘A players hire A players and B players hire C players ‘

To some extent this is true, but if you create a system where you can train people up in-house this isn’t necessarily the case.

As part of your interviewing process, I recommend some focus on how the candidate responds under pressure (this could be achieved using some simple questioning techniques where you are effectively asking the same question in three different ways – reach out to me if you want a few suggestions on this!) Understanding how they work and react when the going is good will only tell you so much…focus on whether they have what the business needs when the going gets tough. This will be far more enlightening.

The value in technical and team interviews…

I would also always advocate a technical interview, where appropriate, to deliver a deeper understanding on the candidate’s ability to do the job. Because we understand the importance of culture and also the negative impact internally on a short-cut hiring process, I recommend allowing for a team interview in your process. Creating an environment where you truly get to see how the candidate engages with the team and vice-versa is really valuable.

Of course, we haven’t yet mentioned other tools and strategies that can support our hiring process. Many can be really useful, but my key message here would be that they often risk some bias and are most useful when used for the right reasons in the right hands (such as personality profiles).

One thing I would strongly advocate, from personal experience, is to ensure effective character references before any formal job offer is made. Ability to do a great job is one thing, but use one of those search tools to ensure you’ve done your due diligence.

Making the hire and effective on-boarding…

When it comes to making the offer to your preferred candidate, use the opportunity to create a positive bonding moment. For this very reason, in my opinion the candidate’s new line manager is best placed to deliver this good news.

First impressions count and creating a clear, effective on-boarding process will help your new recruit settle quickly. Ensure you get your on-boarding right. What will your new team member experience in their first hour on day 1? What will they experience in week 1? What should month 1 look like and why? What about the first 3 months and 6 month windows?

Take the time to consider what your on-boarding stage really looks like in your process and ensure you make on-boarding a high value experience for your new team member. Creating purposeful and positive experiences quickly will build trust, connection and motivation and is far more preferable to the day 1 ‘thumb twiddling’ we’ve all experienced at some point in our working life. Remember how that felt?

Ultimately, your people are your business. And, if you every want a reminder of why its so important to spend time building the recruitment process properly, remember that it’s so much easier to build an effective, repeatable recruitment process than it is having to remove someone due to rushing the process!

If you want to see more about what I believe could help you sustainably scale your business, please watch this short case study I recorded – go.jamespotten.com

Creating a sports mindset in your business

Creating a sports mindset in your business

After so many inspiring sporting performances during the Olympics, with athletes truly at the pinnacle of their game, my mind got to thinking about legacy and in particular what learning we can take and positively apply in the world of business.

There really is so much in turning up and being ready…ready to perform. They say medals are won based on that tiny percentage of real estate – the bit between your ears. It’s truly a mindset and preparation thing!

I was fortunate enough to be in the British windsurfing team and competed in the Olympic trials back in 1995. My own sporting mindset, and indeed the ability to perform at my best, was in no small part developed by an amazing coach (thanks Chris if you are reading this!)

I was probably around the age of seventeen, with some raw ability and plenty of passion. Yet, without doubt it was my coach that elevated me to perform at my maximum potential. My coach made such a positive difference to my understanding of ‘what was happening when’; how to manage my thought processes and how to recognise when things weren’t going so well. He also taught me how to manage and learn from these moments.

Roll the clock on ten years, and I found myself applying many of the sporting mindset tools adopted from my coach into the world of business. Yes, they were indeed transferable.

In business, I was starting to go through some really exciting growth periods and in the hot seat leading within my own business. I was experiencing success, however, truth be told, it was hard at times and I was actually struggling with the pressure of leading a scaling company.

I remembered what it had been like to have a coach when I was younger and what a remarkable difference it had made to me in sport. It was around this time that I got a coach to support me in business (thanks Mike if you are reading this!).

This was without doubt a winning decision for me. The positives I experienced as a direct result of working with my business coach were many. The process helped me understand how I thought again; what was happening around me and also introduced me to group coaching – which I found incredibly powerful!

Group coaching gave me the opportunity to learn so much from understanding how other people in similar business roles to me worked their way through similar business challenges. It also helped me understand that the challenges I was facing in business were not unique to me and that others were in fact experiencing just the same.

It’s true to say that there really is so much in turning up and being ready to perform. Just as with athletes at the pinnacle of their sport, success in business is truly about getting the right mindset and the right preparation in order to WIN (or compromise with a win win)!

It’s no great surprise that medal winning athletes so often champion the influence of their coaches in their post performance interviews. Medal winning is a big ask when ‘going it alone’. And, I believe the same can be said in business.

In sport, I came to the realisation that the right coaching environment would play a large part in getting me ready to succeed. It would help me reach my pinnacle of achievement. In my own business, I found that exactly the same was true. Working with the right coach and being involved in the right group coaching made such a lasting difference to me in business.

And so, fast-forward to today and that’s all led me to what I do now, coaching other business owners to help them achieve their own pinnacle of success. Coaching, just like in sport, is a catalyst for both a winning mindset and being truly ready to perform in business as the best you can be.

If you want to see more about what I believe could help you scale your business, please watch this short case study I recorded – go.jamespotten.com

What does it take to be the Catalyst for Change in a business?

What does it take to be the Catalyst for Change in a business?

It’s a question that I’m often asked. And, it’s an important one. Why? Well, it’s a commonly held belief that the three key components to any successful and sustained business growth are Culture, the Catalyst and the Capability to do so. Where any of these components are not optimised, it’s almost impossible to shift an organisation at all.

In business, an effective Catalyst is something that means you need less energy to change or change direction. Most energy is expelled trying to begin the shift and to change the trajectory of where we’re going. So, if we can be the catalyst in our organisation, we can try to use less energy to create that shift.

Here’s the thing. Catalysing change requires us to get out of our comfort zone and is often uncomfortable.This is because the ‘real magic’ happens just outside of our comfort zone. To be an effective Catalyst, we need the capability to go where we’ve not been before and to think in new ways.

Alvin Toffler, author of ‘The Third Wave’, talks about the illiterate of the 21st Century being those that cannot learn, unlearn and relearn. Being willing to shift our thinking enables us to create the future we seek. How we get ourselves here can be determined by the path we choose: self-led learning or engaging with those who can teach us the tools we need.

What’s A Catalyst Mindset?

Effective Catalysts are often multifaceted in their determination and their abilities. They are fundamentally able to connect with a vision of how the future might be. Some might individually drive things forward whilst others might have the ability to bring a group of people along with them.The most powerful are the ones that can do both!

Being driven, determined, having real clarity and being considered are also strong Catalyst traits. When it comes to being considered, I often relate to the concept of Systems Thinking. You’re always part of a wider system. Everything is interconnected. Thinking this way means we can always consider what the leverage points within that system are and how we can have the most influence.

Are you the Catalyst? Can you be?

Let me reassure you here. Everyone has the capacity to change who they are, it’s my true belief. Understand that personality isn’t permanent. Adopting the characteristics of a good catalyst leader is perfectly achievable. It’s about recognising who you are now and where you need to evolve as a leader.

Look at who you are. Look at how you operate.

As leaders, we often find our most used or strongest skill is our most overused skill. Starting to reflect on when is a good time to use these skills and traits and when we need to apply some different tools is an essential part of evolving as an effective Catalyst. What would have happened in the past if we had employed the polar opposite traits? Would that have supported a better outcome?

New skills can be learnt depending on what our current skill set is versus what our needs are. Being willing to acknowledge that the person that got us to where we are might not be the person that will get the business to where you want it to go is important. In the film RocketMan, one of the roadies says, ‘You’ve got to kill the person you were going to be to become the person you want to be’. This really resonates with me (as I’ve had to do this a number of times in my journey!).

Becoming the Catalyst is key to driving successful business growth. Are you that person? What journey do you need to go on to become who you need to be? What will that journey look like?

If you are ready to begin the path of the Catalyst, then please get in touch. I’d love to help you on the next stage of your journey.


If you haven’t already, check out my Case Study for Business leaders @ https://go.jamespotten.com/


Time to reflect

Time to reflect

the Don’t tell me, I’ve been there! You’re up against it, it’s been another manic week. You’re giving almost all the energy you’ve got to tackle the daily grind. I say “almost” as you’re taking 5 minutes to read this.

So why have you given yourself just 5 minutes? Intrinsically you know you need some mental space, but you’d struggle to convince colleagues you were working on your phone, in fact I’d be willing to bet you’re in the loo right now reading this. Gotcha!

So why is it that reflecting is not seen as working? It has been proven time and again that giving ourselves new stimuli or allowing our mind to refocus can have a profound impact on our creativity. I know this, and yet I remember taking pride in skipping lunch and staying late. You’ve got to do 10,000 hours right?

“To know and not do is to not know” — Steven Covey

Creating your own sacred space
In his very succinct yet fascinating book, “A Technique for Producing Ideas”, James Webb Young identified a 5 step process:
-gather raw materials
-unconsciously process
-have the ‘a-ha’ moment
-challenge the idea with reality

It’s the “unconsciously processing” stage that I want to focus on. So how do you ensure this stage happens in the work day?

I used to be very envious of the smokers at work. Through a forced need they got their timeout, a rush of new ideas and ‘fresh air’. I’m not suggesting that we all take-up smoking, but there is a learn here for all of us. Our equivalent time out these days can be a journey into social media, exercising or sharing a coffee.

So, what can you practically do?
Well for one, I recommend taking a holiday every quarter. My fiancée always makes sure we do this, even if it is a mini-break or a long weekend. I find some of my best ideas come whilst kitesurfing or in nature.

Also, try to understand the patterns of natural cycles in your calendar and work around them. For some people it’s the day of the week, for others the season. Get a calendar out and mark when you’ve had your biggest challenges, then build in sacred space that works for you, such as exercise, journaling, meditation.

A great way to help form routines is with an app like the Streaks app.

Be kind to yourself
If you struggle with being externally referenced (like me then it will be all the more difficult for you be kind on yourself. Ultimately you have to consider how you can be the best and most creative you, and that means getting time to reflect. It could make the difference between delivering your next creative contribution to the world, or instead submitting to the person judging you for reading this (which is only you btw!)

“Don’t do what you need to do, to be the most authentic you” – said no one, ever

If you want to see more about what I believe could help you sustainably scale your business, please watch this short case study I recorded – go.jamespotten.com